‘We Didn’t’ by Stuart Dybek

Dybek, Stuart 1993

We Didn’t by Stuart Dybek, 1993

The magic trick:

Creating a mood and then suddenly altering everything for both the characters and the reader

Happy Valentine’s 2017!

This is some pretty hot and heavy stuff. I was blushing reading these opening pages, it gets so sexually detailed, so personal. And the language? Wow. It’s working really, really hard. This isn’t effortless lyricism here. But there’s no denying he creates a mood that totally encapsulates the reader.

And then…

An earthquake. The story splits open with no warning.

And then…

An aftershock. The story jumps again in another, totally unforeseen direction.

I won’t spoil it for the reader, but the details aren’t necessary to appreciate the concept. Work hard to create one kind of mood and then abruptly shift the story into a totally new place. And that’s quite a trick on Dybek’s part.

The selection:

Remember that night becalmed by heat, and the two of us, fused by sweat, trembling as if a wind from outer space that only we could feel was gusting across Oak Street Beach? Entwined in your faded Navajo blanket, we lay soul-kissing until you wept with wanting.

We’d been kissing all day – all summer – kisses tasting of different shades of lip gloss and too many Cokes. The lake had turned hot pink, rose rapture, pearl amethyst with dusk, then washed in night black with a ruff of silver foam. Beyond a momentary horizon, silent bolts of heat lightning throbbed, perhaps setting barns on fire somewhere in Indiana. The beach that had been so crowded was deserted as if there was a curfew. Only the bodies of lovers remained, visible in lightning flashes, scattered like the fallen on a battlefield, a few of them moaning, waiting for the gulls to pick them clean.


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